Frequently Asked Questions
On Hellenic Neopaganism
(Graeco-Roman Neopaganism)

edition of Tue Nov 28 17:49:06 EST 2000
by Apollonius Sophistes
  1. What is Neopaganism?
  2. Why Hellenic Neopaganism?
  3. What Gods Do You Worship?
  4. Isn't Graeco-Roman Mythology One of the Causes of the Patriarchy?
  5. Are You Witches? Gnostics? Satanists?
  6. Do You Have Sacred Texts?
  7. What is the Basis of Your Religious Practice?
  8. How Old is Hellenic Neopaganism?
  9. Do You Have an Ordained Priesthood?
  10. What Organizations Are There? - Updated!
  11. What is The Omphalos?
  12. Where Can I Find More Information?

What is Neopaganism?

Neopagan religions are modern forms of ancient Pagan religions, which may have been evolving since ancient times, or may have been recreated in modern times. Neopagan religions are usually polytheistic, nature-oriented, non dogmatic, and oriented toward personal growth through direct interaction with the Gods and Goddesses.

Why Hellenic Neopaganism?

Hellenic Neopagans worship the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Although some of us are Greek or of Greek descent, many of us come from other ethnic backgrounds, yet we consider ourselves Hellenic (or Graeco-Roman) Neopagans. The first reason is that Graeco-Roman culture is one of the foundations of Western culture and even of modern world culture; therefore from a cultural standpoint, as Shelley said, "We are all Greeks." The second reason is that in the early years of the Christian era, the term "Hellene" was used to refer to any Pagan, regardless of their ethnic background, so in this FAQ I will use "Hellenic Neopagan" to refer to a modern follower of any of the Greek or Roman traditions. (Some us refer to our religion by names such as Olympianism, Classical Neopaganism, etc.)

What Gods Do You Worship?

Most of us worship at least the Twelve Olympians, in either Their Greek or Roman forms, as well as other divinities (e.g. Gaia, Persephone, Pan, the Nymphs). Some of us emphasize certain individual Deities over others, or the Goddesses over the Gods, etc. Some of us prefer to approach the Deities in Their Etruscan forms, or through the Minoan or other pre-Hellenic religions of the Mediterranean. Further, in the eclectic spirit of ancient Paganism, some of us include in our worship the Deities of other pantheons (Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Celtic, etc.).

Isn't Graeco-Roman Mythology One of the Causes of the Patriarchy?

Graeco-Roman mythology is remarkably gender balanced, although superficial interpretations might lead one to think otherwise. For an insightful analysis of gender issues in Greek mythology, I recommend Ginette Paris' books Pagan Grace and Pagan Meditations (Spring Publications). Certainly Greek society and, to a lesser extent, Roman society were very patriarchal, but the mythology and the religion seems to embody a more balanced understanding of gender. In general, Graeco-Roman Paganism honored the Goddesses at least as much as the Gods, and we Neopagans continue that tradition.

Are You Witches? Gnostics? Satanists?

Some of us are Witches, and some of us are initiated into one or more Witchcraft traditions (Gardnerian, Dianic, etc.), since the worship of the Graeco-Roman Gods is not incompatible with the practice of the Craft. Also, some of us practice religions derived from the ancient Orphic, Gnostic or Hermetic Traditions. Like the ancient Graeco-Roman Pagans, many of us are eclectic in our worship: we realize the Gods can appear in many forms and are given many names, so we are tolerant of others' beliefs and practices, and are willing to adopt them when they seem right for us. Thus some of us include in our worship Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Celtic and other deities, as well as rituals from many religious traditions. However, although there is an exception to every rule in Neopaganism, I think it is safe to say that none of us are Satanists, since Satan is a figure from Judeo-Christian, not Graeco-Roman mythology, and there is no wholly-evil God or Spirit comparable to him in our pantheon. Such a figure does not fit into the world view of most of the Neopagans that I know.

Do You Have Sacred Texts?

Hellenism is not a "religion of the book"; it does not have a sacred text, comparable to the Torah, Bible or Koran, purporting to reveal theological truths. We do have texts that we hold in very high regard, such as the works of Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and Ovid, the Greek plays and the Homeric Hymns. But although we believe these may have been inspired by the Muses, we recall that Hesiod told us that the Muses do not always tell the truth; They may exercise poetic license! So we try not to be dogmatic about what these texts say, venerable though they be. How then do we find out about the Gods, if we don't have a book to tell us what to believe about Them? By studying the opinions of ancient Pagans, and evaluating them through our personal experience of the Gods, through meditation, divination, rituals, visions and mystical experiences.

What is the Basis of Your Religious Practice?

To the extent practical, we follow the ancient religious practices of Greece and Rome, updated appropriately for the modern world and supplemented by practices from other Neopagan traditions. That is, while we respect and honor ancient practice, we are not bound by it. (In ancient times, also, practices evolved with the times.) Fortunately, there is a vast amount of historical information about the Graeco-Roman religions, so the historical basis for our practice is less conjectural than that of many Neopagan religions.

How Old is Hellenic Neopaganism?

Although there is considerable evidence that many Graeco-Roman religious practices continued into modern times under a thin veneer of Christianity, most of us do not claim to be following a continuous tradition dating back to ancient Paganism. Although we can point to a number of Hellenic Neopagans (e.g. Julian the emperor; Plethon [George Gemistos], who inaugurated the Renaissance by his embassy to Cosimo de' Medici; Richard Payne Knight; Thomas Taylor "the English Pagan"; Walter F. Otto the classicist; Robert Graves) and sympathizers (e.g. Ficino, Swinburne, Wordsworth, Isadora Duncan) throughout history, our tradition has been dormant for something over a thousand years. For most of us this is a reconstructed and recreated religion, which means that we have consciously combined our understanding of ancient practice with more recent insights to create a religion for the 21st century and beyond.

Do You Have an Ordained Priesthood?

In ancient Graeco-Roman Paganism, Priests and Priestesses generally had the responsibility for worship at a particular temple or shrine; in many cases these were civil offices or hereditary positions. On the other hand, ancient Pagans never felt the necessity of clergy interceding with the Gods on their behalf. Anyone who knew the proper rites could lead a sacrifice and prayer to the Gods, and the Gods often appeared to mortals and intervened in their lives. Nowadays many Neopagans take a similar view, and we work to come into direct communion with the Gods, without the need for clergy. Nevertheless, we value the skills and experience that comes from training for the clergy, and some of us are ordained in one or more Neopagan traditions. Further in the spirit of eclecticism, we often welcome the Priests and Priestesses of other Neopagan traditions to officiate at our ceremonies.

What Organizations Are There?

New groups are forming all the time. Those interested in Hellenic "reconstructionist" Paganism should contact
Hellenion, which has been recently (2001) incorporated and is now accepting membership applications. Those more interested in Roman Paganism might contact Nova Roma. Others are The Julian Society There are also several small organizations with members scattered around the world, and several active local groups. One purpose of this list and of the Omphalos (see below) is to help us get together to organize larger groups. In the meantime many of us express our spirituality in the context of established (but non-Hellenic) Neopagan organizations, such as the Church of All Worlds.

What is The Omphalos?

The Omphalos is a networking service intended to foster the development of Hellenic Neopaganism by providing a central contact point for Neopagans interested in the Greek and Roman traditions. It provides a way for Hellenic Neopagans to contact others in the same geographical area or with common interests, and it provides a central location for the collection and dissemination of information of interest to Hellenic Neopagans, including festivals (e.g. the Nashville Panathenaia), organizations, publications, goods, services, rituals, and reference material. For information on this free service, send email to:
See also a more detailed description of the goals of The Omphalos. The Omphalos runs The Stele, a World Wide Web page with information of interest to Hellenic Neopagans (see below).

Where Can I Find More Information?

The URL for The Stele, the homepage of the Omphalos Hellenic Neopagan Network, which contains considerable additional information, is:
See also Apollonius' essay on Hellenic Neopaganism from Green Egg.
Return to The Stele

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Last updated: Fri Jul 6 11:22:15 EDT 2001